Archives for Audiophile

Upgrading to an Arcam AVR750 Receiver and A REL Series S/5 Sub-Bass System

I am a classical music listener with a substantial music collection. I am compulsive enough to keep a record of every time I listen to a given piece of music and include notes about the quality of the recording and my listening experience. Excellent, accurate sound reproduction has always been important to me, and I had high quality speakers and components. On March 15, 2016 my audio world changed. With each piece of music I listen to now, since that day, thanks to my notes, I am able to compare my present listening experience with the past. It has improved dramatically with the arrival of the Arcam AVR750 Receiver and the REL Series S/5 Sub-Bass system.

The Arcam has class G amplification – which provides incredible definition and clarity regardless of power requirements which is a breathtaking advance over my previous receiver. The delicate inner voices in the classical music are crucial, and they are presented in pristine clarity. Conversely, if power is called for, class G delivers it without compromise and without distortion.
The REL replaced a high quality subwoofer that was brand-matched with my speakers when I purchased them. Besides a 12-inch driver, the REL has a 12-inch passive speaker pointed at the floor. Most importantly, it can take its audio feed directly from the amplifier-out connectors. Before, I found I was always fiddling with the gain of my subwoofer for various sources- DVD or CDs; I have never touched the settings on the REL. Ultra Fidelis sets it up and you just leave it. It becomes a natural part of your system, which never unduly calls attention to itself, but is always present – such as feeling the organ pedal in your chest, or the dark, deep notes of the cello, more than heard, but gently felt. It as if a whole new dimension of music has been opened. This is why they call it a sub-bass system, and not merely a subwoofer.
The REL was installed and carefully placed by Jonathan – and once it is set, you never need to touch it again. As mentioned above, the bass is amazingly natural, yet when called for it can startle you- experiencing the cannon shots in the film “Master and Commander” is beyond belief! I felt the concussion in my back while sitting on the couch – thanks to both the driven and passive speakers.
Coupling these two components has provided a constant revelation as I listen to post-March 2016 music. Each time I introduce music to the Arcam and the REL I am in for an invigorating new experience.
I am writing this on the one year anniversary of adding these two jewels to my music/home theater system, accomplished under the guidance of Ultra Fidelis, in particular Jonathan Spelt. When I first encountered them nine years ago, I called seeking a product. They could have simply provided that for me, but instead engaged me in a conversation concerning what it was I was trying to accomplish. They listened to me and suggested a very different path. One can buy and replace components, but to have people such as Jon involved in your musical experiences is something much richer and more valuable than mere products. I am exceedingly grateful for the great care, products and support of Jonathan and the Ultra Fidelis team which has improved a very important aspect of my life: the wonder of faithfully reproduced music.


Dave E.

Recharge & Reboot

I just checked.  Five months and nearly a half ‘nother since my last writing.  Yikes!  Inexcusable.  But I do have a reason.  I didn’t feel it.

I bounced back quite nicely from my surgery back in September.  With one small glitch, I am indeed good to go.  I’ll need an annual CAT scan, and, assuming it shows nothing, I am “as healthy as my neighbor” as my oncologist put it.  Fortunately Jeff appears the picture of health so I am too, I guess.

And I feel a lot better, too.  Better than in a long time prior to the surgery, even. But I haven’t felt like doing this.  This musing thing.  It has been the longest part of my recovery.  I think it has to do with the fact that I was pretty focused on the day to day realities of getting back to full health and performance in all areas of my life.  That stuff all has to be right before I have the extra brain space to write, for which I need to be able to get away from the normal living stuff and let my mind wander where it wants to go.  And when I set it free to do that lately, it went out a few feet, turned around, came back and parked at my feet like a shy puppy at its first day at the dog park.

Well, things are starting to limber up.  It really feels as if I’m back.  But, after five months away, I am challenged to pick a topic to break the silence and feature today.  So I’m going to leave you with some examples of the things that have helped me get back up to speed.


  • Setting up a number of AMG turntables, including the new 12 Turbo tonearm on the Viella ‘table, and basking in their profound ability to dig seemingly every last iota of music out of the wiggly grooves. One owner called it “the best sound I have ever heard” and another pronounced his “revelatory.”  Amen to that.  I’m weary of the “analog vs. digital” fuss as I am firmly in the “both, please” camp, but the combination of AMG and Lyra is incredibly compelling.  Vinyl is vitally alive at all strata, but it sure is fun to hang out at the summit.
  • And Aurender’s machines are one of the reasons I am weary of the war. Life with my N10, or the N100H, has been a non-stop journey of (re)discovery of old familiar (ripped) CD’s as well as high res files and the myriad offerings on Tidal. It continues to stun me how good Redbook CD bitrate material can sound when played back through an Aurender.
  • Speaking of Tidal, the emergence, finally, of MQA files thereon has revealed some really special improvements in sound quality stemming from their work reversing the AD (analog to digital) converter-based problems in digital masters. The jury is still out for me as to whether the other function of MQA, that is “unfolding” the streamed file into a higher res file “in your home” bears much additional fruit, but I am at least initially quite impressed with the A/D converter fix.  Now we see if they can continue to convince the record industry of the cost/benefit of the technology. But they’ve got Warner on board and I saw they just signed up Universal Music Group, so…
  • So how did the Moon geniuses get so much sheer fun to come out of the one-box super solution ACE? That machine does things, at $3500, it has absolutely no right to do!  Phono, DAC, MiND streaming and a great sounding amp and preamp in one box the size of any one of those components separately?  Get one before they are outlawed by the Value Police.
  • I have also enjoyed dialing in and doing MASTERS sets on several great audio systems. Vandersteens, Sonus fabers, KEFs, RELs and others have sprung to life before my ears as I optimize them in homes.  It always amazes me how important that final step is!  “Night and day” is not an uncommon reaction.
  • Bob and I have both been gobbling up the new Audio Research Foundation Series gear. Four brand new masterpieces, a DAC, phono preamp, line stage, and power amp, in the space of less than six months!  A person could wrap them all up into a system and retire from the race indefinitely, they are that good.  Or, replace an older component with any one and revitalize a system.  Home runs, all!
  • The Carbon generation of AudioQuest headphones are making even bigger waves than the shock one that the original NightHawk sent out, as well they should. NightOwl, Skylar’s first closed-back design, is particularly valuable for those who need isolation in their headphone listening.  He seems to have nailed it without any of the typical sonic compromises.  Can’t wait for my next plane trip!
  • Bob unboxed the first AudioQuest Niagara 5000 a few weeks ago and, hoo boy, it’s crazy good! Even Garth contends it’s much of what you get in the 7000 and it sure sounds like it from our perspective.  If you are looking for the second best power conditioner on the planet, they are now in stock.
  • Finally, my first Musing since my surgery comes, coincidentally or not, as Kaitlyn returns to manage our web/social media presence. She, too, it seems, went through a spell of “writer’s block,” from entirely different causes from mine, but I’m happy to see she is following her muse again.* Here’s hoping it lasts a good, long time!

*Editor’s note: There comes a point in life when you realize that if you must work, it’s better to surround yourself with really great people…

Listen to the Lion

A whole bunch of things just came together.

Stereophile Magazine made Van Morrison’s “Too Late To Stop Now, Volumes, 2, 3,  4 & DVD” the “Record of the Month” in the new issue, thus informing me that it existed, to my great shame and embarrassment.  I’m supposed to know these things!


The Audio Research PH9 phono preamp passed its 450th hour of at least being on, some good portion of that spent with signal going through it, yesterday.  It should be primed and ready.


Luke brought me a copy of the newly re-released “Too Late To Stop Now” (volume 1, I guess, which it did not have to be called back in 1974 when it first came out) on vinyl (Sony Legacy) today.

I rode my 1977 Trek road bike this morning before meeting Luke at Ultra Fidelis and the temperature was in the low 60’s when I left.  Bracing as Bruichladdich.


The coincidence of these things has put me right in the mood to listen to music.  The air, and also the light today, are whispering that Summer’s days are numbered.  Oh, sure, we’ll likely have some more scorchers or near ones, but today is more than a reminder that it won’t be too long before indoor music listening season is in full swing.

I have been poring over the V 2/3/4 “Too Late…” recently.  I love this music.  And I have for a long time.  I told a couple friends about the release and how excited I was about it, and one of them texted back “Not a big Van fan.”  I thought about it.  Hmm, I’m not either, I guess.  The ratio of his music that I find essential to that which I can easily ignore is pretty low.  But the good stuff is GREAT.  And nothing stops Volume 1 from being one of my favorite records.  In fact, I would be hard pressed not to contend that Side 4 is the best live side of an album I can think of right now.

So, of course I’m interested in Volumes 2, 3 & 4 of this stuff.  I can’t get enough.  But the “autumnality” of today and the arrival of this third version of Volume 1 inspired me to host a good old shootout among my V1 vinyl versions, to wit-

Original 1974 Warner Bros. release, bought originally by me when it originally came out.  It’s well traveled and played.  The inner sleeves say “KMAL 6-27-80” in my handwriting which means I cleaned it on the Keith Monks Audio Ltd. record cleaning machine we had at Audio Emporium way back when.  I treated it to its second bath and a LAST Record Preservative application today.

Fairly recent (don’t remember the year) Back To Black (henceforth B2B)/Polydor/Exile issue I bought several of when they became hard to get a few years ago.

2016 Sony Legacy/Exile release I received today.  I used to work, a long time ago, in record retailing and, very briefly, wholesaling.  Back then, I was up on my label families, but I have no idea how a record that came out originally on Warner Bros. was next released on Polydor and is now ended up in the house of Sony, but there you go.  And when did Exile enter the picture?

I decided to use “Listen to the Lion” as my comparo-track because, well, why not?  Once I play a track off side 4, I have to play the whole thing starting from the beginning, but “…Lion”, which ends side 3, can just stand alone.  And it really represents everything this recording can do.  Dynamics, space, tonal colors, but mostly emotions.  And the way it just fades away to nothing until the woman in the audience decides it’s over and utters, “All right!”  It’s perfect.

How did the different versions fare?  I’ll cut to the chase.  I remembered liking the B2B issue better than my original when I got it and that holds today.  It’s bigger, meatier, and yet more subtle.  Van’s voice and the rest of the Caledonia Soul Orchestra, especially the saxes (Van himself plays one on this track) and cymbals, especially, of the drum kit, are just right.  The proscenium and ceiling of the stage take over my room and present the performance with a degree of vividness and “they are here” that are breathtaking.  If you just read the lyrics to this song (I did it on line today to verify this), they read like something you would never want to hear lest you die of the monotony.  Hearing them performed by Van and the Orchestra on this pressing is transcendent.  Chills?  Check.  Tears?  Held in check, but just.

I played the new Sony one next, after treating it to the same bath and LAST protocol all records get here.  Wow.  A lot less good.  Hard to see people in the band, er, Orchestra.  Stuck together, two dimensional cutout paper dolls in a not very spacious space largely devoid of air.  Neither are they here, nor I there.  Van’s voice is not quite shrill, but much less fleshed out.  And the cymbal sounds, so dark, rich and present on the B2B pressing, could almost be machine-made here.  But saddest is that the players seem to have lost some of their commitment to the music on this very committed music.  On the plus side, surfaces were dead quiet, significantly better than the B2B, and it wins authenticity points by maintaining the triple gatefold cover from 1974 whereas the B2B dumbs it down to double.  

On to the original.  Wow again. A lot of surface noise, somewhat debilitating in such subtle and dynamic music, but the sound is quite good.  Like a slightly thinner, but maybe more lithe version of the B2B.  The end is a bit of a letdown as some details are lost to surface noise, but overall quite satisfying.  

Until I put the B2B record back on.  Oh, nope.  It’s better in every way.  Every bit as lithe when it needs to be, but significantly more substantial all the time.  This is the one we played all four sides of after the AudioQuest event at the store, when Steve and I sang harmony, fueled by Founders Centennial, for over an hour.  It’s addictively good.  Maybe Scott has a white label promo that beats it, but I’m thinking it would take that, if even.  There’s just so much meat on these bones.

What I also learned is how incredibly great the Audio Research PH 9 is.  It engages in a way my 8 simply doesn’t.  And it makes short work of comparing pressings without ever failing to let me drift away with the music.  Even the Sony pressing was a delight, although a relative one, because the PH 9 was in the mix, letting me hear maximum music and minimum medium.  That’s what great phono preamps do- turn those 12″ vinyl discs into near master tapes and unlock the magic of the performance.  Closer, closer, closer we get.

Finally, I reaffirmed what a great record this is.  Perfect for tuning up your soul for the coming music season.  I’m hoping to get back out on the bike tomorrow, but for sure I’ll spend some time listening to music.  One more spin through George Crumb’s “Music for a Summer Evening” before it becomes downright inappropriate.

Mississippi, You’re On My Mind

Astounding. Is not a word I use much. It’s old sounding, something my father would have said a lot more often than I do, and he was born in 1908. But my audio system is that. Astounding.

It’s doing it regularly, including this morning with pedal steel and dobro on “I Can’t Escape From You” by Vince (“Triple O”) Martin. This record was recorded right after and on the site of Dylan’s “Nashville Skyline” and avails itself of the very same stellar gang of Nashville session players, minus my buddy Norman Blake, and sounds even better than “Skyline” by dint of a more direct sound with more vivid, distinguished instrumental timbres and sparkier dynamics. Columbia’s recording of Dylan with these same dudes has more of that Vaseline on the lens kind of sound, as if they were trying to soften the scene for Dylan’s first shot at singing country and sounding like someone else. They all sound fine there, but they really step forward and snap here. And the dobro and pedal steel have that, well, astounding, in-the-room feel.
And, look here… It’s doing it again right now on “Straight, No Chaser” from Monk’s album of the same name. Not to ding Columbia Records twice in succession, but my “go to” Monk record for sound (as well as some of my very favorite of his music) is the much earlier Riverside “Monk’s Music.” But my system is so… astonishing that I can get as lost in this still pretty damn great sounding Columbia record. Charlie Rouse’s tenor is standing right where the pedal steel was this morning and every bit as convincingly. Every so often, I look over there and instead of Charlie, there sits Lily, her head flicking around as if she, too, is looking for the musicians. It’s got us both fooled, and at least one of us deliriously happy.

Screen Shot 2016-07-25 at 5.40.51 PM
I’m blaming Audio Research. They have been on a quiet roll for a few years now, but it’s starting to get loud. My inside source tells me it all started with the SE versions of the power amps, the development of which created just the right amount of additional music to leak through into their eardrums that they could investigate everything that happens before, or “pre-” the power amp with new ears stuffed with bags more knowledge.
Things just sort of snowballed from there. The Reference 6 line stage and Reference Phono 3 have been blowing open doors for over half a year now, and they are about to be joined by the Foundation Series for those of you who have been waiting for the more affordable lineup- LS 28 line stage, PH 9 phono preamp and DAC 9 D-to-A converter. Take your pick at $7500 each, or collect them all for maximum affect. All three will be in stock by August, with the LS 28 due this week. And joined by a tube amp before the snow flies.
The Ref 6 seems to be the source of this… astronomical improvement in my listening enjoyment. When I say “blowing open doors” I mean it. That is the sensation. So many veils lifted it as if they had added up to a door. One that is now open. In fact, removed from its hinges and leaning against the wall in the garage, so gone is it. It, in partnership with my Ref 75SE, causes the condition where seemingly every bit of good and none of the bad is unlocked in all recordings. Equality at the top of the sonic heap is a little hard to handle! It leaves little time for anything other than listening to music.
The other night, I was on a Jerry Jeff jag. The only copy I have of “Too Old To Change” is a test pressing of the vinyl. Literally a white jacket, no cover art, and a 8 1/2 x 11 photocopied piece of paper slipped inside with track listings. Normally, this would be cause for extreme celebration. If promo copies are guaranteed early pressings, you can imagine what something that precedes those sounds like. Except it has a flaw that lasts almost all the way through “Hands On The Wheel,” a knockout of a Jackie Jack solo voice and electric guitar. It’s heartbreaking. So I dialed it up on Tidal. Sweet mother of vacuum tubes! It’s still a knockout. This is a tender ballad and I thought the dynamics in Jerry Jeff’s voice were going to blow my speakers. It was… asparagus! Sorry, I’m at a loss for words. I have never heard such “jump,” such uncapped dynamics revealing a man singing a song completely unbound by the limits of a sound reproducing machine. Experiencing it with a voice I know so well and love so much was bordering on unnerving, but in such a beautiful, exciting way.

One thing led to another, as will happen, and I found myself completely rediscovering Jesse Winchester’s “Mississippi, You’re On My Mind,” long a classic in my life, as though for the first time. Gigantic, enveloping, loaded with musical sparklers at the same time as it let me explore every nuance of the scene the lyrics paint. What a revelation this Audio Research gear is! And what timing. Hottest night of the year and I’m playing perhaps the ultimate hot summer song. It was a harmonic convergence of a rare kind. Night is hot, song is hot, tubes are hot. Let it roll!
In the case you don’t know the song, I’ll leave you with a minor admonishment, the lyrics to it, and a strong recommendation to check out the latest or forthcoming Audio Research gear soon. If they have me listening nonstop in July, just think what will happen when the leaves turn.
Mississippi You’re On My Mind
Jesse Winchester

I think I see a wagon rutted road
With the weeds growing tall between the tracks
And along one side runs a rusty barbed wire fence
And beyond it sits an old tar paper shack

Mississippi, you’re on my mind
Mississippi, you’re on my mind
Ohh, Mississippi you’re on my mind

I think I hear a noisy old John Deere
In a field specked with dirty cotton lint
And below that field runs a little country stream
Down there you’ll find the cool green leaves of mint

Oh, Mississippi you’re on my mind
Oh, Mississippi you’re on my mind
Ohh, Mississippi you’re on my mind

I think I smell the honeysuckle vine
It’s thick sweetness like to make me sick
And the dogs, my God, ah, they’re hungry all the time
And the snakes are sleeping where the weeds are thick

Oh, Mississippi you’re on my mind
Mississippi you’re on my mind
Ohh, Mississippi you’re on my mind

I think I feel the angry oven heat
The southern sun just blazin’ in the sky
In the dusty weeds, an old fat grasshopper jumps
I wanna make it to that creek before I fry

Oh, Mississippi you’re on my mind
Mississippi you’re on my mind
Ohh, Mississippi you’re on my mind

Mississippi you’re on my mind
Oh, Mississippi you’re on my mind
Ohh, Mississippi you’re on my mind

Merle and the Mystery

The most wonderful thing about music is the mystery of it.  The fact that you can think, or talk, or write until hell freezes over about it, and you haven’t gotten anywhere at all in terms of explaining why it works for you.

I don’t mean why music in general works.  That’s relatively easy.  The definition of “music” is so broad, and the availability of it so ubiquitous that the answer can be as simple as, “it makes me happy” or “I can’t help but dance” or even “it keeps my mind off what my dentist is doing to me.”

What I mean is, why does one particular piece of music, or artist, make you immediately seek to get it stopped, while another makes you stop doing whatever else it is you are doing when it comes on?  I spend a fair amount of time thinking about this, the curiosity partly professional and partly personal.

I remember my first reflections on this subject in my own musical world came when I awoke to my attraction to, my affection for country music.  If you read my review of Gram Parsons’ music in our archives, you will note that I admit that I was perplexed, at that early age, as to what was drawing me to country rock, especially with such a heavy emphasis on the “country” part.  Nothing in my background- two college educated parents, one from Philadelphia and the other from Chicago, and a childhood in East Side, suburban Milwaukee- screams “down home.”  Further, although both my parents were amateur musicians, I never, ever heard my father refer to his violin as a fiddle and my mother’s piano was utterly incapable of speaking honky tonk.

But I was, in my late teens, sufficiently convinced that Gram was speaking the truth to me that I did what I’ve always done with music, even back then.  I tried to explain the mystery by following the tree back to a thicker, earlier branch.  Who did Gram like?  In looking to answer, I discovered a gold mine of deeper country, and also that, contrary to what I thought, I was not allergic to it.  In fact, hey Mikey!  I liked it.

One day, at age 19, I went into work, at a small independent record shop, and ordered Dolly Parton Bubbling Over for the title tune, and Merle Haggard Okie From Muskogee for “Silver Wings.”  (A side note to young people, and older ones who have given up on the joys of unexpected discovery- I was ordering complete albums to get one song, secure in the thought that if there were one great tune on the record, there was a strong likelihood that there would be others that I would like, some possibly even as much as the one I was after.)

When the shipment came in a week later, I remember taking them out of the carton with Larry, the manager, and him asking, “Who did we order those for?”  Those are mine.  “Cool,” he said.  And he meant it.  Larry was a little older and less up tight about these things than I was.  For me, this was new territory, and I didn’t quite know what to think of myself.  I knew Mama Tried from Skull and Roses, but I kind of thought The Dead were mocking Merle Haggard.  Little did I know.

In those early days, I had to find compatriots carefully with whom I could discuss “country music.”  It seems funny to me now, as genre-agnostic as I am as a music lover, but those were the formative experiences of that very agnosticism which today yields such a bounty of great music in my life.  My instant love of Merle Haggard and real country music let me set aside the indiscriminate, go along with the crowd musical choices of my youth (never did play another Uriah Heep album after that day!) and find Bill Evans and Dmitri Shostakovich and Bob Wills and Charles Mingus and Joni Mitchell and Bill Monroe and Lightnin’ Hopkins and Igor Stravinsky and, well, the list continues to grow to this day.

Its was Merle who pulled me out of my self-constructed set of expectations for what kind of music could affect me.  Before him, it was as if the mystery could be explained as lying fully within a single denomination, a small subgroup, of the great and complete history of music.  After him, I wondered how could someone as seemingly musically alien to me as anyone whose lyrics are still at least in my native tongue be connecting with me so easily?  Gram started it, but Merle hammered it home. You know what?  Genres must be bullshit!  Duke Ellington was right.  There are only two kinds of music.  Good music, and the other kind.

Today, I bought a bottle of George Dickel No. 8 and tonight, I am celebrating Merle’s life and mourning his death with non-stop playing of his music.

PicMonkey Collage

Mama Tried

Swinging Doors

Today I Started Loving You Again

California Cottonfields

Workin’ Man Blues

The Fightin’ Side Of Me

White Line Fever

Sing Me Back Home

The Bottle Let me Down

My Friends Are Gonna Be Strangers

And, of course, Silver Wings

I love it all dearly.  And I owe it a great deal more.  So, please, try something Merle taught me.  Knock over a genre.  Step in to some music you swore you would never listen to.  Roll around in it, study it a little bit, even.  Try to find what people hear in it.  You may find that the mystery doesn’t need to be unlocked.  And music you thought was the other kind isn’t at all.

One Thing Leads to Another – Part II

Edison is an easy, if somewhat fraught, choice for a name for a product to do with electricity. The famous namesake tried for many years to horse through his cylinder recording system over the superior disc system of Emile Berliner and, as I spin the multi-Berliner-formatted set of Ryan Adams live at Carnegie Hall on my turntable, I think back to the last time I sat in my darkened listening room beholding the magic of verisimilitude emanating from my Edison cylinder player. My goodness, it must have been during the (Teddy) Roosevelt administration. But T. Alva does get credit for the light bulb. And a good many other things, his or others’ appropriated by him. And now he lends his name again in the world of sound reproduction to an electrical outlet that is actually a hifi component. Who would have thought?

The changes wrought in my listening pleasure by Sunday and Monday’s labor installing the Edison in my wall are definable largely as making the reproducing equipment disappear even more in the process of bringing recordings to life. Small bits and shouts are more vivid and arresting. That latter is no small feat. I am used to these peripheral changes digging more details and echo trails out of performances, but letting Ryan shout instead of feeling as if the stereo were shouting at me is really satisfying in a way that I did not expect would follow my installation of a new “outlet.”


I saw Jason Isbell last night, speaking of living American male talented singer songwriters who at one time may have flirted or more with and may still adopt from time to time country music themes. Man, he’s a yeller at times. In the most best Alabama way that we Up Here could probably use a lot more of. By “yeller” I mean he can sing damn loud, absolutely perfectly and clear as a bell on pitch, even if just for a moment of emphasis, but it came across last night as really a special quality. He can belt. And belting is cool, especially used judiciously as he does. And my stereo now lets him belt in my house in a way that didn’t happen before Edison.

And Stravinsky belts too, now. And Archie Shepp. And Ani Difranco. And when they get small, they all get really small. Way down in the dust region. There is stuff happening there I have never heard before. And it all lights me on fire in a way that is worth WAY more than $150. Plus labor.

Audiophile in Training

This time last year, if you would have asked me what Grado GR10es were, I probably would have thought it was some kind of kitchen gadget. Then I started dating someone who knows more about audio equipment than most people know about really… anything.

As a novice audiophile, I’m attracted to rhythm, lyrics, the overall aesthetic of good music. I probably spend upwards of 50 hours a week with earbuds in, listening to the soundtrack of my life. Music brings me back to a moment once lived, good or bad. It can transform an experience, fabulous or mundane.

Knowing that my life revolved around music, my boyfriend gave me an incredibly thoughtful Christmas present – Grado GR10e in-ear headphones. They also came with very important instructions.

“Break them in first before you go telling the world about them…”

I threw those $15 Sony earbuds away with reckless abandon and, with a solid 150 hours of play time on these Grados, I can honestly say they were not lost on me. They fit more comfortably within the ear cavity, almost providing a noise-canceling effect you would get in over-ear headphones. The way the music can flow from ear-to-ear with full sound even with compressed digital music is incredible. It’s easy to close your eyes and get lost in the quality. The headphone package from said fab boyfriend came with an AudioQuest Dragonfly DAC to be used through my computer’s USB port while I’m listening at work, enhancing the streaming music on my computer like it had intended to be listened to. Talk about getting the full experience!


It’s not everyday you hear girls raving about audio equipment. Maybe it’s because we have history to back up the assertion that we aren’t the most targeted demographic. Ironically, women can notice changes in pitch and high frequency more readily than men. So this goes out to all the great boyfriends out there looking for a gift that their girlfriend will actually use and appreciate. Take note: a new purse is nice, but that $400 clutch for special occasions doesn’t get used everyday…


Testimonial by Kaitlyn H.

AudioQuest’s Premiere of the Niagara 7000

On Tuesday, November 10 we hosted our AudioQuest friends Garth Powell, Rick Blair and Jim Scatena and a roomful of you, our customers.  Garth was here to demonstrate the new Niagara 7000 Low-Z Power Noise-Dissipation System for the first time anywhere in the U.S.  He was also here to play the drums and describe how his talent and experience at that meaningfully relates to his power conditioner designs.  It was a great night.

If you attended, the following videos will let you relive this wonderful evening.  If you missed it, please enjoy this version of Garth’s entertaining show.  And if you use a Dragonfly and a pair of NightHawks connected to your computer, you can easily hear the improvements wrought by the Niagara 7000 captured by our video camera even on YouTube.  Just imagine what a Niagara would do for your music if it’s actually in your system!


The Vandersteen Adventure

I flew to Portland (The West) to set up a wonderful system this past weekend.  Vandersteen 5A Carbons (newly updated) and a bunch of Audio Research and Audioquest paired with a nice VPI turntable.  The unusual part is this system had recently come home to the U.S. from China where it had spent its life so far.

We had shipped what I know to be the first pair of Vandersteen 5A’s to China over a decade ago for a Wisconsinite who moved there for business  He is making long term plans to come back to the U.S. permanently as opposed to occasionally, so it now makes sense to have the music gear back here.  The interesting part for me was that, rather than ship all his electronics back to their manufacturers for “U.S.-ification,” he had an electrician wire his listening room for 240 volt operation.  And here, it’s even balanced as opposed to what he got in China.
Hearing the sense of dynamic ease and grip made me wonder why we don’t all do that.  Oh, I know there are reasons (120 volts is safer, it’s what Edison’s orginal light bulbs drank, and it’s what we are served here, so many manufacturers won’t sell anything but 120 volt gear here), but if it sounds better, I say damn the torpedoes!  It’s got me scheming.

Mission: Bullseye to UltraFi

Ultra Fidelis is celebrating the start of the Indoor Music Listening Season by giving you a chance to enhance your LP and CD library for FREE!  We are partnering with Bullseye Records who is giving away two $200 store gift certificates that the winners may spend on anything in Bullseye.

Simply go to Bullseye Records and collect a raffle ticket, bring it to Ultra Fidelis, drop it in the box and cross your fingers.  Tickets must be in the box by the close of business for us at 7:00 PM Friday, October 23rd.  This will give our customers an opportunity to meet Luke Lavin and Terry Hackbarth, and get to explore the many great finds at Bullseye whether you are one of the winners or not.

Then, on Saturday, October 24th Luke will be here from 4:00 to 5:00 PM to culminate the celebration and pull the two lucky winners at Ultra Fidelis.  You need not be present to win, but it’s always fun and there will be added reasons to attend.  Luke will be handing out Bullseye discount coupons and Ultra Fidelis will give each of you here for the wrap-up a free AudioQuest Carbon Fiber record brush.

So bring on those cool autumn nights, and let’s fire up the stereos again!